2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by James Bergeron

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Poseur: a person who attempts to impress others by assuming or affecting a manner… other than his or her true one – Dictionary.com

When Ferdinand Porsche founded a small consulting firm in 1931, well to-do suits working the financial districts were not part of the key target audience for his vehicles. Cars like the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, developed from lessons learned in motor racing, were aimed at true enthusiasts.

Today, Porsche is classified as a luxury brand, and most Porsche owners don’t partake in any high speed activities on closed courses. But that does not mean that today’s Porsches are not capable of eating up the tarmac at your local racing circuit – in fact, any Porsche purchased at 9:00 am can be taken to the track at 9:30 am without requiring modifications.

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder. Click image to enlarge

Recently, Porsche of Canada offered the motoring press a rare opportunity to track-test the new Boxster Spyder back to back to with the 911 Targa 4, 911 Turbo and 911 Turbo S. I figured I’d be a fool not to accept the challenge and see for myself why so many people aspire to pilot a Porsche 365 days a year.

With a base price of $72,900 the 2011 Boxster Spyder cannot be considered inexpensive, but it was the least expensive of this test group. Optioned out to $91,395, the vehicle I drove was equipped with a beautiful Carrera Red leather interior, sport chrono package, sport shifter and sport exhaust to name a few of the stand-out additions. Some may laugh at the completely manual roof and lack of interior door handles but the goal here was lightness.

In all, the Spyder is 80 kg (176 lb.) lighter than the Boxster S. With its unladen weight of 1,275 kg (2,811 lb.), the Boxster Spyder is indeed the lightest model within the entire range of Porsche cars, with a power-to-weight ratio below the magic limit of 4 kg/hp. To be precise, the ratio is 3.98 kg/hp, far less than the power-to-weight ratio of, say, the Carrera S. The Spyder is powered by a 3.4-litre flat six producing 320 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque.

2010 Porsche 911 Targa4
2010 Porsche 911 Targa4. Click image to enlarge

When I hit the track it became obvious the Spyder was light and nimble, and driving flat out, even on a slightly damp track, was a breeze. I was extremely impressed by the Spyder’s quick turn-in response and mid-corner balance. Grip was well beyond my expectations and seemed to easily best the next car on my test, the Targa 4. I liken the Boxster to a surgical knife as it cuts through corners carefully and precisely without the drama of power slides or understeer.

Onto my next victim, the 2010 911 Targa 4 powered by a 3.6-litre flat six producing 345 hp and 288 lb.-ft. of torque. This vehicle features all-wheel drive which helps keep that heavy back-end stable. This tester had a base price of $113,700 with notable options being a sports exhaust, 19-inch Carrera wheels, navigation and PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), all of which skyrocketing the as-tested price to $149,875.

On the track, it was immediately obvious that the Targa was heavier than the Spyder. Everything about the 911 felt stronger and less dainty; “manlier” is a good adjective. The shifter requires more effort as does the clutch and steering. Around corners, the weight of the Targa can be felt, but it still hustles. Although we were not timing our laps my internal clock was telling me the 911 was slower than the Spyder because of its oversteer on long sweeping corners. However, coming out of a corner as one gets on the gas, the front-wheels assist the rear by helping the car to claw out of the corner.

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo
2010 Porsche 911 Turbo. Click image to enlarge

Still, despite the slight understeer and oversteer, the 911 was clearly more fun. It speaks to you in a way that encourages you to go out and blast down the straights and hang the tail out a bit in the corners – more communicative, more raw, more exciting!

Things really heated up after I stepped into the driver’s seat of the 2010 911 Turbo. Its 3.8-litre six-cylinder twin-turbocharged direct fuel injection engine produces 500 hp and 480 lb.-ft. of torque. With its starting price of $165,300 and an as-tested price of $177,125, one can get a little nervous barrelling down the back straight of Mosport International Raceway at over 200 km/h! With its active sports suspension, the Turbo is stiff on the racetrack and I can only imagine how it would feel on Ottawa’s rough, construction-filled public roads. The Turbo is to be respected; grip is phenomenal, power is insane and if you need to stop it will do so in a hurry! The six-speed manual transmission makes you feel like a hero as you heel-toe downshift entering a corner. My only complaint is that when switching from the brake to the accelerator, there is so much power that even the slightest touch on the gas causes a surge of power thrusting you forward.

Lastly came la-crème-de-la-crème – the 2011 911 Turbo S Coupe with a heart stopping price of $200,000 and equipped with Porsche’s seven-speed PDK sequential transmission (Porsche Doppelkupplung Transmission), which bumped the price to an as-tested $202,655. Essentially a 911 Turbo with some extra oomph, the 2011 Turbo S produces a mind blowing 530 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque and an unfathomable zero-to-100 km/h sprint in 3.3 seconds, or an even more mind boggling sero-to-200 km/h sprint in 10.8 seconds, faster than some cars are capable of in the zero to 100 km/h sprint.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe
Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe
Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Standard features include massive 15-inch vented brake rotors with six-piston calipers on the front and 13.8-inch vented rotors with four-piston calipers on the rear. Also standard are Porsche Ceramic Composite brakes that are capable of hauling down the 911 Turbo S from 200 km/h over and over again without fade.

The PDK transmission makes you feel like a superstar, with perfect up- and downshifts that are seamless and lightning quick – Porsche now uses the industry standard left downshift, right up-shift pull type paddle shifters instead of the previous push button wheel mounted design. Pushing the Turbo S to the limit was not within my skill set, especially in the downpour that occurred during my on-track session. But nonetheless, it was clear to me the 911 Turbo S is a serious machine that I would proudly call my own if some extra coin landed in my bank account.

Porsche is one of the few manufacturers to offer their customers factory-sponsored programs where they can take their car to the track to enjoy what the car is truly capable of – a way of teaching owners to respect machines that are more capable than some racecars of yesteryear.

Though some Porsche owners may be poseurs, you can be sure that none of their vehicles are.

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